May 22, 2009

Think Christmas in May

Now that the weather is just starting to warm up in many parts of the country, it’s hard to think about winter travel planning. But if you are considering a tropical family getaway for Christmas, the time to plan is now. Despite the economic climate, holidays are still one of the most popular times for families to travel, and flights and hotels will continue to book up early.

However, families will find one change in their favor. In the past, a minimum 10 night stay was often required for travel late December through New Year's. But many resorts have relaxed this policy for 2009, which can make a holiday trip easier for families to manage this year.

Here are some great family resorts which are only requiring 7 night stays this holiday season:

Westin St. John Resort & Villas – This is a lush retreat for families who want to either “do it all, or do nothing at all.” Rent a jeep to explore the island, or hike and snorkel in Virgin Islands National Park. Or just relax on the 1,200-foot beach on calm Great Cruz Bay, featuring slides and trampoline rafts. Kids have plenty to do, either in the Westin Kids Clubhouse for ages 3-12, or the 1,200-square-foot teen center with air hockey, video games, foosball, and plasma TV. And the whole family can enjoy activities such as dive-in movies and beach volleyball.

Casa de Campo, Dominican Replublic This is one of the best family resorts in the Caribbean, offering a large variety of accommodations from luxury guestrooms to spacious villa homes. It’s great for family reunions because of the amazing variety of activities, including world renowned golf, tennis, watersports, fishing, cycling, and horseback riding. And parents of infants and toddlers will appreciate having a supervised children’s program and nanny services available.

Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya– Fairmont Resorts excel at family-friendly luxury, and this relatively new resort in the Riviera Maya is no exception, as my family recently discovered. (Read my trip report here.) Set amidst lush vegetation and canals on a safe swimming beach, the resort offers exceptional dining, fun pools for kids and adults, and spacious rooms and suites. Families wanting the ultimate in pampering and convenience can book beachfront bungalows with private pools and butler service.

Paradisus Playa Conchal – This all-inclusive, all-suite resort on 2,400 lush, beachfront acres in Costa Rica is paradise for families who love nature. The children’s program entertains kids up to age 12 (including babies!), and Family Concierge Suites include specialized amenities for families such as walkie-talkies and a Paradise Kidz Beach Kit. On-site activities include golf, eco-adventures, nightly shows, free cooking, dancing and fitness classes, and a casino.

Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman – They have arguably the best and most unique children’s program to be found, created in collaboration with sea legend Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kids age 4 to 18 can kayak through mangrove jungles, dive underwater in a submarine, learn to navigate by the stars, and practice digital photography. While the program is fully supervised by a well-trained staff, the experience is so spectacular parents often tag along. And everyone is pampered by the traditional Ritz-Carlton world-class service. (Other Ritz Carlton destinations with 7 night minimum stays are located in San Juan, Cancun, Jamaica, and St. Thomas)

St Regis Punta Mita
– This is one of the newest luxury resorts in Mexico, having just opened in November, 2008. The slogan here is "barefoot elegance," with every room offering Signature St. Regis Butler Service, outdoor showers and private terraces, and easy access to a white sand beach. Children are entertained in a bright, cheerful Kids Club, or can splash in the family pool or calm Banderas Bay. Golf, fishing, tennis, and excursions to local villages round out activities for the whole family.

Don't get left out in the cold! To get started planning a great family vacation for the holidays, or any time of year, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at

May 13, 2009

Keswick Hall Combines History and Family Fun

Keswick Hall is located in the heart of Virginia, near Charlottesville and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. An extensive estate amid beautiful countryside, it makes an ideal destination for families who enjoy nature and history. Though the property itself is intimate, with only 48 rooms and suites, it offers a broad variety of activities. All ages can enjoy nature walks, fishing, horsback riding, tennis, hot air ballooning and indoor and outdoor pools.

Children are especially welcome at the country house, and given a Kids Only Passport at check-in, a cleverly designed interactive guide to the estate, Charlottesville and the surrounding area. Kids will have fun planning their stay from the journal’s long list of places to discover, people to meet and interesting facts about the property. They also receive an in-room amenity ranging from caramel popcorn to animal crackers with fruit flavored sodas.

Golf is one of the more popular activities at the resort, which has its own Arnold Palmer Signature 18-hole golf course. And children are encouraged to pick up a set of clubs as well. On select weeks in summer, golf clinics are held for ages 6-12, and a Junior Golf Camp for ages 13-16. Complimentary tennis clinics are also available for children 5 to 10 years old, and golf lessons are also available year round for all ages and abilities.

Through May 31, to celebrate the 266th anniversary of the third President’s birth, Keswick Hall is offering a 2 night Celebrating Jefferson package including:

* Monticello Guidebook
* Daily continental breakfast
* Passes to Jefferson's beloved home, Monticello, his summer escape, Ash Lawn and the Michie Tavern Museum
* A three course dinner for two in Fossett's, an award-winning restaurant named after Jefferson's head cook
* Jefferson Vineyards tour and wine tasting

Guests who book through a Virtuoso agency receive the following complimentary amenities:

* Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
* Daily continental breakfast for up to two guests
* One complimentary round of golf for two, including cart

To learn more about Keswick Hall and how to receive the best rates, amenities, and VIP treatment, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at

May 6, 2009

Current Summer Family Travel Deals

Atlantis Resort (Bahamas)– Save up to 35% , get a 4th night free, and kids under 12 stay & play free. Book by June 1, travel before December 16, 2009. Book by May 11 and receive a $200 air credit.

Beaches Resorts (Caribbean)
- Book any Beaches Resort for 5 nights or longer and receive a $250 Red Lane® Spa credit. Must book between May 1-31, for travel May 1 to December 20, 2009.

Four Seasons Hualalai (Big Island) - Book 4 nights and receive a $1000 credit! Stay another 4 nights, and receive another $1000 credit. Available May 1- September 30, 2009 with some date restrictions.

St. Regis New York – Book a 2-bedroom St. Regis or Grand Suite for at least 3 nights and receive third night free, daily continental breakfast for four, afternoon tea, choice of 2 museums (4 tickets), and welcome amenity of milk and cookies with St. Regis teddy bears. Also enjoy “Movie night with the kids” – 2 complimentary in-suite movies, popcorn and ice-cream sundae bar delivered by room service. Available June 19 through Sept 7.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Combine the Three for Free offer with the Family Plan to receive 50% off an adjoining room for kids, fifth night, complimentary daily breakfast buffet for two adults and two children, a complimentary upgrade on both rooms, one free in-room movie, and a bottomless cup for kids 12 and under.

Disneyland – Receive two extra hotel nights plus two extra days of Theme Park admission free with the purchase of a 3-night or longer package. Valid for travel April 1 through Sept. 26, 2009, must be booked by Aug. 11. Book by May 31 and receive Kids Fly Free with Alaska Airlines (subject to availability).

Cape Grace (Capetown, South Africa) – Family Time package includes daily breakfast, vouchers for R700 in-room dining, family pass to Two Oceans Aquarium, complimentary babysitting for 4 hours, complimentary upgrade to a 2 or 3 Bedroom Suite (based on availability), and African story time and gingerbread man decorating. Available through Sept. 30, 2009, and requires a 5 night stay (5th night is free).

Westin Villa Resorts – On Maui and Kauai, receive 35% off, fifth night free, a $100 dining credit, and earn double Starpoints. Valid through June 30, 2009. In the continental US and US Virgin Islands, receive 50% off rack rates(applicable dates vary by location). Travel must be booked between May 1 – 28.

Grace Bay Club (Turks & Caicos) – Family Package includes 50% off connecting room, full breakfast & lunch daily, champagne and fruit basket, half day snorkel cruise, and 4th night free. Kids enrolled in the VIK (Very Important Kids) Program, including use of Kids Town, welcome backpack, and nightly turndown amenities. Nightly rates also available with 4th night free.

Grand Isle Resort (Bahamas) – Classic Families promo includes discounted rates, kids eat free, 50% off second villa (with reservation of 2,3,4 bedroom), 2 half day or1 full day rental of Grand Isle Snorkeling Pack. Five night stay required, valid to Dec. 20, 2009.

To get started planning the family vacation of your dreams, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at suzette@family-treks.com.

All offers subject to availability, and may be changed or canceled at any time without notice.
Restrictions or blackout dates may apply.

May 2, 2009

Fun Activities for Families Visiting France

Visit a prehistoric cave decorated with wall engravings of horses, ibex, mammoths, deer, and bovines dating from the Aurignacian period (between 33,000 and 26,000 BC).

Ride a little red train from Chamonix to the world famous glacier de la Mer de Glace. A 20 minute ride through wonderful scenery brings you to the largest French glacier - 7 km long!

Spend a day hiking with an ornithologist guide through meadow and mud flat in southern France, to discover the diversity of European water birds, including all nine European Heron species!

Canoe the Gardon River to the Pont du Gard, part of an impressive system of channels and tunnels and it has survived intact over a period of some 2000 years.

Learn to make perfume in the laboratory of the Molinard factory in Grasse, a small town overlooking the Mediterranean which offers private visits to the best perfume factories.

Enjoy a flight in a paraglider over the beautiful Alpes de Hautes Provence mountains.

Visit a modern goat dairy farm in Normandy, and learn about raising and caring for livestock, milk production, as well as the local history.

Visit Normandy beaches on bicycle, traveling from Omaha Beach to the Pointe Du Hoc through unforgettable, bomb-scarred, cratered terrain, and enjoy the panoramic views from the coast. Visit the reflecting pool and memorial at Saint Laurent sur Mer, which houses a 22-foot high bronze sculpture, maps of the invasion, and bronze urns.

For more information about creating a family vacation you will remember forever, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Advisor at suzette@family-treks.com.